Welcome back to “Mike Meets”! In this series, the SALT editorial team makes our intern, Mike Restiano, try financial products he’s never used before (jealous?). Mike will highlight what he likes and dislikes about each—and whether you should check it out for yourself. This week, Mike is investigating Mint.com.
Ryan has me investigating a website called Mint.com this week. I’ve heard some people rave about it here and there, but I never felt inclined to check it out myself.
My first impressions didn’t really include anything too profound. I really liked the fact that it was designed appealingly, had a punny name, and was relatively easy to navigate. Initially, I was tempted to just click on the sign-up button and get started, but I learned my lesson with annualcreditreport.com. The first thing I clicked on was the “What is Mint” tab.
So…what is it?
The headline at the top of the page pretty much told me everything that I needed to know: “Your financial life, all in one place.”
Apparently, Mint is a complete financial management tool that “makes your life easier.” I read that and cringed out of fear that I’d be spending the next 5 years of my life entering all of my monetary data into the site. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about that. Mint automatically pulls in all of your financial data when you log on to your account. Talk about convenience.
The site also touts its mobile app, its 7 million users, and its ability to help you “reach your goals.” It also has some kind of crazy security encryption (whatever 128-bit SSL means) so you don’t have to worry too much about getting your identity stolen. Mint passed my legitimacy test, so I decided to sign up. A quick process since they only need very basic information like your email, name, and a password.
EXPLORING THE SITE
The first thing that Mint does after you sign up is ask a lot of questions. I saw the list it wanted me to answer, and it took every ounce of determination I had to not sign out right then and there.
Luckily when I clicked on the tab for my total money, I was prompted to sign into my Bank of America account. I had forgotten that Mint automatically pulls in your data once you use it to sign into a financial website. That meant no manual data entry for me!
It would’ve done the same for all of the other questions, but none of them really applied to me.
- Did I have an investment account? No.
- Did I own property? No.
- Did I have a student loan? Yes, but I also didn’t have my Department of Education username and password (which is apparently different from your PIN) readily available. So no go there.
After logging into my bank account, an enormous amount of information about my money showed up on the screen. It was like looking at an online account statement of every transaction made with my debit card. Every single transaction showing was categorized accurately, and I even had a spending budget that I didn’t have to design myself.
I was able to view trends in my purchasing habits, and I didn’t have to do too much analysis on my own to dissect them. I got a brief, clear notification that told me I’m apparently spending too much money on fast food. To say I was impressed would be an understatement.
As impressed as I was with Mint, I can’t give it my stamp of approval for student use.
I don’t have property, investments, or even credit to manage, and I’m guessing most of you don’t either. I only have a whole bunch of student loans and some pocket money, and Mint’s advice for what to do with that was “save for an emergency.”
The website is geared more toward older, financially independent people, as opposed to students still in college. We can’t take advantage of most of its features, and what’s left over we can just do on our own.
So make an account and stash your login info away somewhere safe. You’re probably going to want to use it again in 10 years or so.